FFAR - Integrated cattle and crop production project

FFAR - Integrated cattle and crop production project

cattle feeding in a field

FFAR LogoIn 2017 the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research awarded $1 Million Grant to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a 5 year project on Enhancing Animal Protein Production through Crops and Cattle.

The aim of this project is to increase the efficiency of land use by increasing the amount of food produced per acre by incorporating beef cattle onto cropping systems while improving ecosystem services to ensure resiliency and sustainability.

This grant is in concert with on-going work by the Beef Systems Initiative, a statewide research and extension effort to optimize Nebraska beef production in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Updates and Activities

Needs of producers using integrated cropping and cattle systems. Five focus groups with 43 innovative producers were held in Lincoln, Norfolk, Holdrege, Broken Bow, and Scottsbluff. These producers were asked to discuss barriers, and research needs regarding integrated cow/calf and cropping systems.

Five common items were identified as either an education or research gap by each focus group:

  1. Evaluate each integrated system as a whole system in terms of economics, risk, and adaptability to markets and weather.  
  2. Explore options to extend the grazing season for early spring and late fall forage deficiencies. 
  3. Develop management practices that reduce disease incidences in young calves.
  4. Refine the energy requirements of drylot cows.
  5. Investigate variability of cattle response when grazing corn residue.

A list of the top priorities that each location identified is also available.

Reducing cow feed costs using cropland: In a joint effort, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa Extension hosted a three meetings as a part of the Three State Beef Conference to address opportunities to use forage from cropland for early spring, winter and fall forage. 

The topics covered included using annual forages, grazing corn residue and using silage. A good summary of annual forage options for filling in the late fall and early spring forage gaps is provided in the article "Considerations for using annual forages cost effectively". Grazing of corn residue is one of the most cost effective ways to winter beef cows with no negative impacts on the soil or subsequent crop yield when grazed at the appropriate stocking rate.  The article "Myths and merits of grazing corn residue" provides a summary of the research on stocking rate, supplementation needs and impacts on the soil and subsequent crops. Silage production is another forage production opportunity but the key to making it cost effective is proper management. The Hay and Forage Grower article "Shrink Silage Shrink" provides some of the key things that need to be done.

ENREC Field Day: A field day was held in April 2018 to showcase the research being conducted at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (ENREC) on integrated cattle and cropping systems. For more information, you can read the proceedings.

On-Farm Research and Demonstration: Winter hardy small cereals like cereal rye can be planted after soybeans to provide early spring forage. Research was conducted at Knuth Farms to evaluate the impacts of planting and grazing cereal rye on subsequent corn yields.  The result of this research was reported on p 30-31 of the 2017 Nebraska Extension On-Farm Research report.

New Article

"The Value of Grazed Corn Residue for Crop and Cattle Producers" - The income of crop producers from corn residue grazing is often over looked but it is worth much more than many might think. Corn and cattle producers can both benefit from winter grazing.

Corn residue can be a valuable feed resource for beef producers. The feeding value of baled corn residue will depend on harvest method and can be significantly improved by ammoniation. Want to know more? Check out the Progressive Forage article "Not all corn residue bales are created equal."

Interested in using rye or triticale cover crops for spring grazing? Check out the article "Cereals Provide Spring Grazing Option" in the 2018 Hay and Forage Grower magazine written by Mary Drewnoski, Beef Systems Specialist.